An interview is most effective when each party approaches it with a mutually agreed purpose: to get to know each other and to assess fit. Candidates need to know how long the interview will be, what kinds of questions to expect, and if possible, some insightful detail about the people they are going to talk to.
This typically includes sharing the general structure of the process. As the interviewer, you may let the candidate know the types of questions to expect (specific coding knowledge? or probing previous work?). Offering tips for how your company likes to get answers and a bit about what you’re looking for will help them rise, not sink. This kind of transparency leads to a better overall candidate experience and can reduce stumbles due to anxiety, which can lead to false negatives.
Candidates benefit from preparation at multiple stages: before the process begins (you can tell them what to expect by email or phone); at the start of each change in interview format; and at the end, to explain what’s next. Preparing candidates to do well also entails checking in along the way to confirm that they understand what to expect, asking if they have any questions, and offering encouragement.
At the outset of any of these conversations, it helps to break the ice with some small talk and compliment the candidate on specific work they’ve done that’s gotten them this far in the process. A nervous candidate who feels unwelcome or out of place won’t give an accurate signal of their abilities and capabilities.